TandemStride: A New Digital Platform for Amputee Peer Support

Matt Kalina’s brother wasn’t the first person to lose both legs in a traumatic accident. But it felt that way, because he had such a difficult time finding people who’d survived injuries similar to his, understood his experience, and could offer the guidance he needed. He felt isolated and unsure of where to turn for emotional encouragement or practical life hacks.

“It was frustrating, watching my brother go through this life-changing trauma and have to pull all the pieces together to figure out how he’s going to live a normal life,” Kalina says. “And that’s why I started TandemStride.”

Launched this spring, TandemStride is a digital, peer-to-peer support platform that offers holistic solutions to the everyday challenges associated with recovering from trauma and adjusting to disability. It begins where clinical care ends, creating an instant community and infrastructure that augments and enhances formal medical treatment. And it’s actively seeking people to serve as mentors.

“Your doctors and clinical staff all have a particular view,” says Kalina, “but only somebody who’s navigated that complexity and all those settings as a patient can have a truly empathetic conversation. Trauma bond is a real thing. And if you don’t have a community, it can be really tough to have a meaningful recovery.”

TandemStride is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing healthcare organizations and disability support networks. The Amputee Coalition is a partner, along with the Trauma Survivors Network, Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, and United Spinal Association. In addition, more than 15 trauma centers nationwide are partnering with TandemStride and integrating the platform into their standard patient care.

“Our goal is to match patients with mentors that we believe have a high probability of making a connection,” says Kalina. “Things like the age at which their injury occurred, or the mechanism of injury and the type of injury, are really important. If my brother [who lost his legs in a train accident] talks to someone who has a gunshot wound, they can connect on some level. But our goal is to build a national network that offers the most meaningful connections right out of the gate, with very one-to-one, specific matches.”

Moreover, the organization wants to build relationships that endure for the long haul. Recovery from traumatic injury is an open-ended, nonlinear process. Challenges related to mental health (including PTSD), employment, pain management, and social connection may not kick in for months or years. But many patients discover that their family and friends move on after the initial crisis has passed. When they go back to their own lives and routines, it can leave a gaping hole. TandemStride wants to cultivate trusted partners who can help each other through multiple phases of recovery and adaptation.

With help from the Amputee Coalition, TandemStride will offer specific training to equip volunteers for their role as mentors. “We need to build up a pretty deep network of folks who have an interest in giving back,” says Kalina, whose brother is a Certified Peer Visitor. “We find that many amputees do feel a calling to do this, and we’re trying to provide the right on-ramp and give them the tools to do it as effectively as they can. We never want to just throw somebody out there without preparation.”

Volunteers also will be integrated with the primary care team, so they can leverage hospital resources and professional medical expertise when needed. “We’re starting with the natural human impulse to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through,” Kalina says. “But our goal over time is to provide wraparound supportive services, which may not be the sole responsibility of the peer volunteer themselves. They may be introducing other people into the relationship, if that provides the greatest benefit.”

To learn more about TandemStride, visit them online at tandemstride.com. To sign up as either a mentor or a new patient, download the app from Google Play or the App Store.

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